The Things We Find When Lost

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Farrell Safaris are notorious for their cross-country deviations even when kitted out with a fully functioning map. And so it was on our recent Anglesey stay, and with an intended short (couple of miles) drive from Aberffraw to next-door Rhosneigr, that we managed to miss the turn and instead head off to who knew where.

Usually when this happens, Captain Farrell’s first resort is to keep going, perhaps in hopes that, if we do this for long enough, all will come right.  Fortunately this time we had savvy niece in the back seat, and she soon had our position pinpointed on her phone. We did indeed need to turn around. And it was while this was going on – i.e. finding a suitable turning space on a narrow country lane, that I spotted the Neolithic burial chamber in the far corner of a farm field.

Can we stop, says me, hoping for a better look over the wall and maybe a long-shot photo (poor light willing).

But once turned about, we soon saw that a proper visit was feasible. There were official signs in Welsh and in English ‘Ty-Newydd Burial Chamber’, a pull-in space on the verge and a stile.  Sister, cockapoo and niece were up for a visit, though the wind was brutal and it was starting to rain. In my rush to head the expedition as chief prehistorian I was ensnared in a hawthorn bush and held up proceedings. Meanwhile Captain Farrell gathered himself for unscheduled activity, and manfully brought up the rear.

We then tramped across the muddy field only to find the ancient capstone (a whopping 12 ft by 5ft/3.7 m by 1.5m) had been propped up on two unsightly brick pillars set on a concrete base. And while their solid intervention was doubtless necessary for many reasons, their presence jarred. The dreary light did not help.

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So it turned out that the original drive-by view had been more impressively mysterious than the close-quarters’ encounter. Ah well.

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The tomb was excavated in 1935 and is considered typical of the funerary monuments built by the first farming people (see also the Barclodiad y Gawres tomb in an earlier post). Finds included a hearth with charcoal remains, some flint flakes, a burned flint arrow head, and a chip from a polished stone axe. But there were also pottery shards of the later Beaker People of the Bronze Age, and signs of a further chamber, which suggest the tomb was used, or re-used over a considerable time-span. The large cairn that once covered the tomb is long gone – ploughed out and/or its stones re-purposed. Instead, small concrete bollards have been set out to indicate its original extent. Useful guidance on the one hand, but like the brick supports, they felt intrusive somehow.

Anyway, we paid our respects to ancient souls who then, like us, must have been alarmingly blasted by the training jets taking off at nearby RAF Valley. The New Year’s holiday was over and ‘business as usual’ resumed. Out of the gale the engines’ roar filled the sky, the earth, the universe, my skull. It was noise so loud as to be physically shattering. I had that strange sense of someone walking over my grave and a horrid glimpse of what it must to be some innocent village dweller in a war zone; to be on the receiving end of the northern hemisphere’s mighty industrial war machine.

Several times during that day the soundtrack for Armageddon rebounded through my bones and being. It happened again in late afternoon as we walked on Aberffraw’s magnificent beach. And I wondered then, as I have done many times recently, what on earth the ancestors would think of us now. We who believe ourselves so very civilised?

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A Hawk T1 or T2 (?) caught over Aberffraw estuary. And the photos taken immediately afterwards – first looking towards mainland Wales, and the second across the Celtic Sea towards Ireland:

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Lens-Artists: interesting things

This week Patti wants to see the kinds of scenes/objects that catch our eye or pique our interest. Please go and view her interesting choices.

65 thoughts on “The Things We Find When Lost

  1. your safaris are always so interesting (reassuring to know that there are others who can get lost whilst having an OS map as guide) but what a desecration those brick propped sides. Captain Farrell has all the instincts of the lost male – keep going, never ask and hope that there will be a guiding star somewhere!

  2. I wish I had taken a keener interest in the marvelous history I was surrounded by when I lived there. Alas, it was pretty much all music, beer and skirt!
    Thankfully there is now you to take me on such safaris!
    Lovely post, as always, Ms Tish.

      1. You are probably right. However, on saying this, as a youngster I was fascinated/ enamoured by all things Roman in the museum in Chester.
        I suppose having rime on one’s hands also helps and /or being actively involved as a profession.

      2. I saw the (Rolling) Stones when I was 13 so I suppose Jagger can almost be regarded as ‘prehistoric’ these days!
        🙂

  3. This is wonderful, Tish. I love your description of the Farrell Safaris and the Captain, bravely forging ahead despite all evidence that he’s lost. (Sounds like someone I know! Is it a characteristic of the male species??). Your neolithic find is wonderful and disappointing as you mention, with the modern-day bricks added for support. The coast looks marvelous! Now, I’ve got to go to Wales the next time we’re in the UK.

  4. Fascinating, with a loud bang for the finish. I support your reasoning.

    Greetings to Wales. I’ve been watching “Y Gwyll”, listening to the language that I know nothing about, and it’s been rather fascinating. There surely are many mysterious deaths over there for such a small space. 😉

    1. Many thanks, Manja. We really enjoyed Y Gwyll (‘Hinterland’ Eng.) We Shropshire folk make many forays into that mid-Wales terrain. Stunning land and sea-scapes and hopefully not actually many mysterious deaths 😉

  5. Serendipity rules! What a find, despite the bricks and concrete. We have RAF Leeming not too far away from here, so are quite well acquainted with WWIII noises off, unfortunately. Luckily, not TOO often..

    1. Also couldn’t help but think of the eye-watering cost of these jet runs. I’m glad we don’t have them anywhere near us, though they did used to practice low level sweeps up the Corve Valley. Back in the day if my father was out in the garden during a fly-by, it would totally zap his hearing aid batteries.

  6. Wonderfully written. Thanks for showing us the mystery unbroken side of the cairn first! What a lucky happenstance to arrive there. I know just what you mean about the fighter jets – they make practice flights over our town weekly. Noise is definitely part of the attack, or so it feels. Thanks for the tour of the countryside and beach!

  7. It is a shame about the concrete – I would have thought they could have found less intrusive ways of propping it up? Still an interesting find however. I love these serendipitous moments when travelling, coming across something you didn’t know was there!

    1. It occurs to me now that the concrete might be for the site’s protection from unofficial ‘digging’. It certainly doesn’t look very good, but it could at least be removed should there ever be more investigations of the site. And yes, those happenstance discoveries. Much more than the sum of their parts 🙂

  8. Haha… the safari made me laugh! We too end up in unexpected places and as the driver I always say, when lost, that we will end up somewhere at some point! The capstone though is abominable – it would have been better left on its side than that monstrosity. Shame on the Secretary of State for Wales!

    1. I suppose in some ways it’s a bit of ‘stage management’. When you see photos taken in better light and at just the right angle, the stones look quite impressive.

  9. The ‘stones’ certainly do look very impressive! And the Celtic Sea shots could be posted by the local tourism department – gosh they really make me want to visit, see, walk and breathe that air: stunning!

  10. A splendid result from the safari – shame about the unsympathetic brickwork but remarkable nonetheless. The military have been more active over Northumberland skies of late, who knows why. Given everything we know and everything we have achieved, I suspect our ancestors would be astonished at how often and how readily we continue to make a hash of things.

  11. I’d venture a guess there will be no one else posting a similar subject this week Tish! I loved the story you wove around the object both with your travels to/fro and with the frightening sound of the war machines overhead. It’s a worrisome world these days with buttons in the hands of some frightening characters. Here’s hoping calm minds prevail as our world teeters over the edge.

  12. Incredibly interesting things and thoughts Tish. I find it mind blowing thinking of life all those years ago and also the scientists/historians that have been able to unravel the life of the people back then from these prehistoric findings.Great photos

  13. I would find that very interesting, although it’s a shame about the cement blocks. When I visit my s-i-l in France, we’ve often found all sorts of interesting spots on our way to somewhere else or when just driving around to see what we can see. As they’re moving to Norway soon, the next time I go we’ll have all new places to discover. 🙂

    1. France off-the-beaten-track always yields something of wonder. I remember once discovering a Breton church built on top of a neolithic chamber tomb which was conventiently serving as the crypt.

    1. I think the builders in Brittany and Wales were probably kinfolk. And yes, Carnac. What a monument that is.
      We are indeed well, thanks, Brian. Hope all is well with you and family.

      1. Kinfolk they were. I’ve seen motifs in Ireland that one can see in Brittany. The triskel. There are common words in the vocabulary.
        Carnac is lovely but I hear most of it is fenced now. Too many tourists fooling around… Tsss.
        Mzuri sana Memsahib. Kwaheri sassa.

  14. Of course I have to go to Wales…beautiful and interesting history!…and that male trait, well it’s found everywhere I think. in my own house too. I really don’t know why…and I wonder what specific trait we women would have in a man’s eyes.

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